December 10 marks Human Rights Day. It is a day to promote and spread awareness about human rights around the world. Civil rights, political rights, the right to due process, the right to free speech, the right to life and equality before law – all of which are just a few examples of the human rights that we may all take for granted. Over the years, Taiwan has become a country with a vibrant and young democracy. Alarmingly enough, despite its thriving democracy, there have been a number of human rights issues in Taiwan that are still being jeopardized today.
Therefore, we invite you to take part in our #rights4tw – Protecting and Remembering Human Rights in Taiwan online social media campaign. Take part in our candlelight vigil by posting any of the following images as your Facebook profile picture or cover photo, or sharing it on any social media platform of your choice. Let’s work together to spark and ignite change, one image at a time.
Why? Because the freedom to rights is everyone’s fight.
Known to many as the start of Taiwan’s democratization, the Formosa Incident happened 35 years ago on December 10, 1979. A political publication called Formosa Magazine wanted to celebrate Human Rights Day, so they applied for a permit to hold an event titled “Celebrating 41st Global Human Rights Day” (慶祝世界人權日四十一週年) but was denied multiple times. Despite a curfew decreed by the authoritarian government, organizers and participants gathered at the Rotary Park (扶輪公園) in Kaohsiung. They were met by riot squad, military police, and the army. Repeatedly, these armed forces marched close to the demonstrators in hopes to incite fear and anger. At 8:30 PM, tensions started to rise as the police fired tear gas into the crowd. Scared, the audience still stayed to listen to speakers continue with their speeches. An hour and a half later, tear gas, and a riot squad moved in and violence broke out.
This was a turning point for civil movements in Taiwan’s recent history. Despite Taiwan’s young age, through each civil movement, the people expressed their own thoughts and sometimes discontent with the government. The Formosa Incident gave rise to historical movements to come such as the Wild Lily movement, Wild Strawberry movement, and a movement remembering Hung Chung-Chiu …
One major incident in recent years is the death of corporal Hung Chung-Chiu (洪仲丘) in July last year during his military service. The armed services is supposed to protect and safeguard the safety of Taiwan and its people. Three day before the end of Hung’s conscription, he was placed in military detention, accused of a cell phone violation. Hung was ordered to perform strenuous exercises drills that caused a heatstroke and then a coma. Upon the arrival to the hospital, his body temperature had risen to 44 °C (108 °F). The next day, he died. Upon further investigation, it seemed that the handling of Hung’s heatstroke was delayed and his punishment was deemed too harsh. The incident was further complicated when evidence was found to have been tampered with.
To commemorate Hung’s death, over 100,000 people took to the streets in Taipei to stand vigil for Hung on the eve of his funeral. Many demanded the truth and reforms to the military system in Taiwan, because no one should be treated in such a way that leads to death, even as punishment.
Read more about Hung:
Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is a prisoner, and a former president of Taiwan. Since his incarceration six years ago, he had become gravely ill – with trembling hands, a weak bladder, the inability to recall his own sentences, and a suicide attempt. Diagnosed with heavy depression, severe sleep apnea and Parkinsonism symptoms, Chen remains in prison despite Article 58 of the Prison Act. Article 58 states: “If an inmate suffering from diseases could not receive appropriate treatment in prison, it may be taken into account to release him on bail for medical treatment, to transfer him to specific prisons or hospitals with permission of supervisory authority.” Despite a doctor prescribing him medicine, his condition continues to deteriorate.
Just as Hung was treated unfairly despite his military punishment, Chen should be treated like a human and with dignity. Ignoring doctors’ notes and public petitions, the government still denies Chen the medical bail that he should receive as a prisoner. Chen should be treated with equal rights and be given the medical attention he deserves.
Read more about Chen:
Human rights are inalienable and inexcusable rights. It is the equal treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, political background or economic standings. We must maintain dignity and respect to every member of humanity, or we will be reduced to just savage beasts. The time is now for us to stand up and do more to work towards a better world. No matter who you are or where you are, let us take this day, if not every day, to fight for human rights. #rights4tw #rights365
This #rights4tw project is a joint collaboration between Outreach for Taiwan and Overseas Taiwanese for Democracy.
Written by: Eric Tsai
Edited by: Jenny Wang, Chieh-Ting Yeh
UPDATE: On Januarary 5, Chen was granted medical parole.